The experience of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for parents can be anxiety-provoking, fearful, and distressing. To help parents cope with these overwhelming feelings, a number of interventions, including parent support groups, are typically offered. It is hoped that the provision of these groups and other forms of emotional support lessen the distressing experience for parents and lessen the anxiety of hospital discharge. This study focuses on the emotional reactions during the transition to home from the NICU for parents who participated in one such support group.
Parents were interviewed 4 to 6 months after discharge of their baby from hospital.
Themes from these interviews included anxiety and concern about the baby's readiness for discharge, concerns about the risks of further illness and rehospitalization, and whether the parent felt prepared sufficiently to care for his or her baby at home. Recalling their time in the nursery was distressing for parents, but despite this, they identified that positive staff interactions helped them through the hardest times in the NICU.
The support group was reported to be effective and helpful for parents. Parents often maintained social contact with other parents and recalled advice and supportive information from the group as needed. Participants recommended that the support group continue to assist other parents.